Negril Snorkeling

If you’re headed to the Caribbean island of Jamaica and are wondering about Negril snorkeling trips by boat or from the shore, this guide is for you. Negril reef snorkeling is available from some of the beaches in this area, or you can take a boat trip out to the reef or a small cay (island). 

When you want to try snorkeling in Jamaica, Negril offers a mix of snorkeling spots. Some of these can be accessed from the shore, while others located offshore mean hiring a boat or taking a tour to get there.  

The underwater life in the Negril area is mixed. Some areas only have intermittent patches of coral, while others are abundant in colorful live corals. Sadly, as with many snorkeling spots worldwide, this part of Jamaica has its fair share of dead coral. 

Some of the best snorkeling in Negril, Jamaica can be found at the Booby Cay, Middle Reef and Sandy Cay areas of reef off Seven Mile Beach. You can reach these via local Negril snorkeling tours. 

For Negril, Jamaica snorkeling from the shore, you can head to the Rockhouse Hotel or Bloody Bay without the need to board a boat. These spots can be found along the rocky cliffside coastal area that lies to the south of Seven Mile Beach, close to the Rockhouse Hotel and the Caves hotel.

If you want to explore underwater during your stay in the Negril area, read on to find out all about the snorkeling opportunities this area offers. It’s worth planning in advance, as your wish to explore underwater might well influence your decision about where to stay in Jamaica

Staying at some resorts – such as the Royalton complex and the Rockhouse Hotel – means you can access snorkeling directly from the shore. Otherwise, you can still access these areas, and exactly how to do this is all explained below. 

Find out all about Booby Cay, Sandy Cay, Middle Reef, Bloody Bay and Pristine Cove at the Rockhouse Hotel have to offer in this complete guide to snorkeling in Negril!

Where to stay in Negril for snorkeling

This is where to stay in Negril for on site shore snorkeling:  

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NEGRIL REEF SNORKELING MAP

Negril Snorkeling Map Photo
Photo Credit Jayne Lipkovich, Shutterstock

NEGRIL SNORKELING EXCURSIONS

Booby Cay

Booby Cay from Point Negril

One of the most popular places for snorkeling excursions in Negril, Jamaica is Booby Cay. This is a small, forest-clad island around seven miles from Jamaica. It offers panoramic views of the Negril area. The white sandy beach here is also a favorite among swimmers and snorkelers – and wildlife lovers. 

You’ll need to access Booby Cay by boat. This isn’t at all difficult to arrange, as locals walking along the beach will offer to take you there in their boat. Their fee is generally around $20 per person. 

The snorkeling spot to go for can be found on the south west side of the island. You can also enjoy a freshly prepared seafood lunch on Booby Cay as locals cook the likes of lobster with garlic butter until around 3pm. You can dine on this for about $40. 

Crab or Caribbean style Jerk chicken are other options often available there, especially out of lobster season. Fresh fruit is also often sold, while rum punch and Red Stripe can also wash it all down nicely. Do take enough cash along if you want to savor this sort of feast! There are plenty of shady trees if you’re concerned about the heat. 

If you’re wondering why it’s called Booby Cay, the name comes from the seabirds inhabiting the area. These birds with distinctive blue feet are closely related to gannets, another seabird. Cay is the local equivalent of key, as in the Florida Keys and so on. 

The birds don’t only visit the island, they also nest here. Sometimes, the cay is known locally as Gilligan’s Island. Because of the wildlife, Booby Cay can be as popular with birdwatchers as it is with scuba divers and snorkelers. 

Booby Cay is a really fun spot to hang out at and some people rate their visit as the highlight of their vacation. The snorkeling at the coral reefs here is just okay rather than fantastic, though. If you’re looking for the best off shore snorkeling in Negril, head to Middle Reef or Sandy Cay. Both of these can be accessed by boat from Seven Mile Beach.

Middle Reef

Middle Reef from Boat
Soft Coral at Middle Reef Negril

Middle Reef at Ochos Rios is the most common spot for Sandals Negril snorkeling trips, as boat trips from the all-inclusive resorts in north of Jamaica tend to head here. Sandals Negril is our favorite Sandals Resort in Jamaica for snorkeling. This spot is sometimes referred to as Middle Shoal Reef, and it’s popular with both scuba divers and snorkelers. It’s another site that can only be accessed by boat, rather than from the shore. 

This is a really decent spot, not least because the depth is around ten feet. Which is precisely why many boat excursions from the island’s top resorts tend to visit. It’s one of the best places we’ve seen when visiting the Negril area. This and the Rockhouse Hotel seem to be the two most popular places of all. 

Anchor at Middle Reef Negril
Corals underwater at middle reef in Negril jamaica

The depth means this is a good place to see plenty of small corals and colorful, tropical fish. It’s a good all-rounder, which is why it’s often used for those undertaking their beginner’s PADI course. In fact the depth varies across Middle Reef, and in some parts reaches around 30 feet. 

Coral and Fish at Middle Reef Negril
Fish and Coral at Middle Reef Negril

Species to see at Middle Shoal Reef can include lobster, barracuda, squirrel fish, starfish, grunts, spade fish, turtles, scorpion fish, stingrays, sea fans, sponges and more. Corals have also flourished here around a small plane wreck. Many snorkeling tours in Negril, Jamaica include Middle reef on the itinerary. 

Sandy Cay

Sandy Cay from beach

If you’re seeking Beaches Negril snorkeling spots, Sandy Cay can be found off the coast by the Beaches resort. This island is further south from Seven Mile Beach, and all-inclusive trips from the resort normally go here. 

The snorkeling here is pretty similar to Middle Reef. There are lots of coral patches, and some of these are healthy and colorful. Lots of small fish such as yellow grunts can be seen swimming around. 

You may get the chance to spy sea turtles, eels, squid, lobster and starfish too. Larger species like stingrays, nurse sharks, swordfish and barracuda also sometimes frequent these waters, so you might just get lucky. 


SNORKELING IN NEGRIL FROM THE BEACH

Rockhouse Hotel

Rockhouse Hotel from Boat Negril

The Rockhouse Negril snorkeling spot is one of the best in the area. You can access the snorkeling area and caves off the beach here whether you’re staying there or not. There’s a ladder you can climb down located below the resort’s Pushcart restaurant. 

We actually checked with The Rockhouse in Negril, Jamaica about snorkeling there, and they said that it’s fine for non-residents to use this. It’s a good place, with some caves to explore. One of these was used in a James Bond movie, and there’s also a horseshoe-shaped one that you can swim right through.  

There are large sections of coral which stretch out from the cliff walls here, and you can find these all along the shore. This is one of our top picks for spots to snorkel in Negril. The coral here is in better shape than in many of the other areas around Negril, though there is still a significant quantity of dead coral.

There’s plenty to see both above and below here, so if you want to try Negril snorkeling from the beach it’s a good bet. The crystal clear blue waters here have earned it the name of Pristine Cove, and the marine life here was also filmed for the movie 2,000 Leagues Under the Sea

If you want to see the kind of colorful fish and corals you normally only encounter in an aquarium, then don’t miss Pristine Cove at The Rockhouse Hotel. If you have one, take your GoPro or underwater camera along, so you can capture some of the marine life for posterity. 

Bloody Bay

Coral at Bloody Bay near Point Negril
Bloody Bay Point corals negril

If you’re staying at one of the resorts and are seeking Riu Negril snorkeling, there’s a reasonable shore snorkeling area to the north of Bloody Bay. Though we didn’t get the chance to check this one out during our recent trip to Negril, you can find it just past the Riu, between Little Bloody Bay and Bloody Bay proper. We’ve heard from other snorkelers that it’s okay, but nothing special.

The point at the southern end of Bloody Bay does also offer some fair shore snorkeling. This area was nothing too impressive in terms of coral, but I did spy loads of starfish, which is always fun!  I also saw a porcupine fish, plus many other small fish.  

If you’re staying at Point Village or the Royalton Negril, snorkeling from here is easy. If not, it’s an area that’s quite difficult to reach. The beach offers public access, but the roads and the grounds you’ll need to cross to get to the water are not. 

Porcupine fish bloody bay near point negril
Starfish at Point between Bloody Bay and 7 Mile Beach Negril

I walked along Seven Mile Beach to get there. Starting out from the public access point, you can head down to a small beach just past Hedonism – (be prepared to see plenty of bare flesh as you pass this nudist section of the beach). From there I swam around the point.

After getting past the first rocky point, you’ll come to a line of buoys. You can find some coral here, though much of it is dead. Again, there’s also lots of starfish. Follow these buoys to reach the next point, and then you can turn into Bloody Bay.  

It’s a fairly long swim, and the snorkeling here isn’t super rewarding. So it’s worth weighing upon whether it’s worth the effort. You will see small stands of coral here and there, but it’s not the most impressive underwater spot.  

If you’re staying at the Point Village, Riu or the Royalton Negril resorts, it’s much simpler to access this area. It’s therefore well worth checking out the underwater life during your stay. 

WARNING: Boats do travel VERY close to shore in the waters here, so I would highly recommend taking a swim buoy or dive flag along. I didn’t bring one, and at one point had to very quickly swim to the shore to avoid a boat! It gave both me and the boat captain a scare, when he did eventually see me as he passed by. 


Where will you sample Negril snorkeling?

The Negril area of Jamaica offers various snorkeling opportunities. If you want to delve deep beneath the ocean’s surface during your vacation, then it’s worth planning where to stay carefully. In our opinion, and based on a recent visit, Middle Reef and Pristine Cove are the two best snorkeling spots in this locale.

As you can climb down a ladder to reach Pristine Cove from the Rockhouse Hotel, it’s worth considering a stay here. You can also do this if you’re not staying at the resort, but having direct access does make life easier when you want to snorkel more than once.

Those staying at the Royalton Negril, Point Village or Riu resorts can also access shore snorkeling easily. We don’t reckon this is as good a spot as Pristine Cove, but other snorkelers have reported seeing more underwater life than we did. 

Other than Bloody Bay and the Rockhouse Hotel area, you can take a boat trip to reach Sandy Cay, Booby Cay or Middle Reef. This is recommended in any case, as the views of Negril from the water and the islands are incredible. 

Eating lobster that came from the sea surrounding Booby Cay only an hour ago is also a very memorable and enjoyable experience. You can look out for the blue-footed Booby birds there too. 

Wherever you head to, snorkeling in the Negril area is pretty good all year round, thanks to the water clarity and good weather. So it’s a great place to go when you want to see what lies beneath the surface of the ocean!

Looking for more Jamaica information? Check out all of our Jamaica posts and guides here.

About the author
Kristin Young